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A ‘humble hero.’ Joshua Eyer, CMPD officer killed in shootout, leaves legacy for his son

Andrew Eyer floated into the packed church, nestled in his mother’s arms.

There was silence, then sniffles.

The hush that fell over uptown Charlotte’s First Baptist Church — a grand structure that holds its own among the city’s towers — wavered as the 2-year-old came into view.

He trailed a casket draped in an American flag. Behind him, officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and neighboring cities followed inside the church for Joshua Eyer’s funeral service Friday morning.

FROM MONDAY: Four law enforcement officers killed, 4 wounded serving warrant in east Charlotte home

Andrew’s hat, featuring an American flag with a blue line through it, matched the flag displayed next to his dad’s casket.

Eyer, 31, died Monday night after a US Marshal’s task force and other responding officers came under fire while trying to serve a warrant to a fugitive in east Charlotte. Three officers died that dayand five others were injured.

He “showed up to help,” as he so often did, one last time, friends of the family told The Charlotte Observer. While Monday’s news was shocking, Eyer’s actions were not.

“He’d blow out a knee trying to chase someone down for an open container violation,” said CMPD Detective Thomas Mattox. “He was the guy who got punched in the face for a stolen PB&J sandwich.”

Smiles formed under tearful eyes.

It was the principle of it all, Mattox said. Eyer was always running full speed ahead. Monday was no different.

“Josh heard the call on the radio,” he recalled, “and ran toward the chaos.”

Ashley Eyer places her hand on husband Joshua Eyer’s casket after making remarks to mourners at First Baptist Church on Friday, May 3, 2024. Joshua Eyer was a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, one of four law enforcement officers killed April 29, 2024 during a standoff in east Charlotte.

‘The true hero’

As speakers took turns addressing the more than 2,000 people packed into the churchAndrew’s front-row murmurs could be heard even from the furthest pew.

“I know Andrew is too young to understand,” said Officer Nicholas Ferreira, who started working at CMPD alongside Eyer six years ago. “But best believe we’ll let him know the true hero his father was.”

Twenty-one bouquets of flowers behind Ferreira and rows of uniformed officers in front were a harrowing reminder of what it means to be an officer.

Deputy US Marshal Thomas “Tommy” Weeks and NC Department of Adult Correction Officers Sam Poloche and Alden Elliott also died Monday when the suspect, Terry Clark Hughes, Jr., fired at least 100 rounds from an AR-15 rifle and a 40-caliber handgun.

The funeral procession for CMPD Officer Joshua Eyer in Charlotte on Friday.

Asking why

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings reflected on a question he hears often.

Officers know the dangers they’re getting into when they put that uniform on, he said. They know they may not come home.

So, why? Why do they do it?

Jennings has never known how to answer that question, he said. And he still doesn’t. He just knows he’s proud — every roll call, every conversation, every meeting — he’s proud of his officers.

A week before Eyer died from his gunshot wounds in a Charlotte hospital, he was named CMPD’s North Tryon Division Officer of the Month for proactive policing that addressed quality of life concerns in Sugar Creek, North Tryon Street and the Interstate 85 corridor.

Eyer was “the epitome” of “a phenomenal officer,” CMPD said in a statement before the funeral.

He was also a “humble hero who would cringe at all these accolades,” said CMPD Chaplain Lonnie Clouse.

His family approved.

Ashley Eyer, the wife of fallen Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Joshua Eyer, speaks during her husband’s funeral. At right, Joshua Eyer’s best friend Charlie Sardelli offers support.

Family above all else

But pride always beamed from within whenever Eyer spoke about his family, said Charlie Sardelli. The two met at JROTC in high school — and hated each other. A story akin to the “plot of a bad buddy-cop movie” soon started, though, Sardelli said. Eyer became his best friend.

They had known each other for 7,389,400 minutes. That translated into 15 years of arguments over which superhero would win in a fight (Eyer had Batman, Sardelli had Superman) and abundant references to “Star Wars.”

But now, Sardelli would be waking up the next day — Saturday, May 4 — without his yearly text from Eyer. “Hear him loud and clear when he says, ‘May the Fourth be with you,’” Sardelli told the crowd.

The quiet inside the church had been disturbed only by the rustling of suit cloth as attendees moved to grab handkerchiefs and others abruptly inhaled. After Ferreira’s and Sardelli’s speeches, the pews emptied as everyone stood to applause.

The sound would be ended only after Ashley’s quivering speech.

“I’ve been told being up here would be a bad idea,” she said. “But I’m going to try.”

Ashley, who met Eyer at Pfeiffer University, glossed over the “hardworking, often stoic” personality many saw in Eyer. She focused instead on at-home Eyer.

“It was not uncommon for me to roll over in the middle of the night and see his fingers typing away as he felt his best for his friends in battles or his fellow officers,” she said. “Or maybe he was just sending inappropriate Instagram reels.”

The two had a rare love, she said. He was her best friend, and he would always be remembered like that.

“But his real legacy is back there,” she said, referring to Andrew, who was playing in a room behind the stage. “Being a father was, undoubtedly, his most cherished role.”

The pews emptied again as everyone stood to watch a slideshow of Eyer’s well-documented life, shown through selfies in the car, candids of naps on cots from his time in the Army and photos of Halloween costumes with Andrew dressed as a pumpkin.

At the end of the two-hour service, his family was shuffled out.

Back in his mother’s arms, Andrew waved goodbye one last time to his dad, smiling at his dad’s photo.

Two-year-old Andrew Eyer, waves to his father Joshua Eyer during his funeral at First Baptist Church in uptown.